When I first ventured into the field of bloggery, it was an eyeopener and no mistake, but the important thing was that I found spaces where I felt comfortable. Sometimes challenged, but comfortable. I maintained a list of several blogs I would read regularly and it appeared that many of them updated if not daily, then several times a week. Some were slower, some had a regular schedule (maybe once a week or once a fortnight), but there were discussions and it was often valuable to revisit them to keep up on what was going on. Communities formed around them. The ones where discussion was invited, friendship – or at least community – was encouraged and fostered, meant a lot to me. They still do. These few sites or blogs provided rare safe spaces for me to explore what it means to be me, and even to consider whether what it means to be Valery North is the same as what it means to be my real-world self (I can’t separate the two, I think the answer is that the name and things shared through it may be different, but being me is always being me, in different ways).
In the past two or three years, however, these oases have been dwindling. My internet is getting smaller, and not in a good, “communication is faster”, “the world is getting smaller” kind of way. Most of the blogs I read when I started visiting this world have either ceased to be, or have drifted away from what they were and I have drifted away from them. The ones that I remained in contact with have been very valuable to me emotionally and intellectually. But even those are disappearing or transforming now.
Some of the big community sites that I read/read – communities built for others, not for me – are slowing down, posting less frequently. Some of the personal blogs are doing the same, although that seems less of a shame since it implies that the person behind them has other things, hopefully happy things, going on – and I like it when people update when they feel like it, as long as that is not too rare (I miss hearing from friends and acquaintances I like).
But it is those oases of safe but challenging debate that I miss most strongly, and those are not just slowing down, it seems: they are disappearing.
For me, the latest round of losses started with the announcement that Informed Consent, the UK-based BDSM community website/social media platform, was closing down at the beginning of 2013. It had already drifted away from being the site that I fell in love with when i first discovered I wasn’t a freak, that there were others like me. At that time, the founder says now, it was still an instrument of BDSM activism – a forum for the exchange of ideas and (not in his word) to build consciousness in the community. It became a forum for all sorts of other socialising (including a personal ads section). It seems as though the behemoth, the leviathan, that is FetLife (in the mind of IC’s founder, anyway) made IC redundant. FetLife, for all it serves most of those purposes (except the personal ads service – and I don’t know of a good replacement for that), is not a place where I feel safe or comfortable in the large part. I use it almost exclusively for staying in touch with people I already know, not for making new friends or entering into discussions (I do a little bit of that, but rarely on the things that feel vital to me).
On my relationship quest (which is not just to find someone, but also to understand people and myself better and maybe through that understanding, make it easier to find someone) a blogger called Nathan had a useful blog called 21st Century Relationships. However, about 3 weeks ago he posted that he had stopped posting about relationships, because, “The “experts” think their always right. The readers either think their experts or will defend the experts almost to death against those who disagree. … At the end of the day, though, the best advice always comes from a place of humility and openness. Because no one walks the exact same path in this world.” An attitude that made his site one of my favourites to read and to open discussions on, because it helped make sense of my path. So many experts’ sites that I read help only inasmuch as they tend to reveal what my path is not.
But the really big loss – the site that had all those qualities of being friendly, hosting safe but challenging debate, incisive and considered posts to spark the debate (and frequently to help me figure out more about my path) – is the blog of Clarisse Thorn: a BDSM activist, sex educator, and explorer of relationship theory and practice (part of which is recorded in her book, “Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser”). She’s now legitimately nationally famous in Germany after a publisher picked up that book (heh, see what I did there?) and marketed it, getting her on telly and radio. Unfortunately, for the past few months her blogging had become less and less frequent, and discussions seemed to slow down as well. And finally, she has taken stock of where her life is at and decided that blogging isn’t a part of it any more. (It sounds as though the pseudonym “Clarisse Thorn” doesn’t figure too strongly in it either, but maybe I’m reading too much between the lines there – even so, reading her post it feels as though “Clarisse Thorn” the created identity, is dead.)
I am running out of places to have the kinds of conversations I need in order to develop and move forwards in my own journey. I certainly don’t know how to go about finding or building new ones, because as much as I know, I always feel like I am the one seeking knowledge and wisdom from others with greater experience or more information than I have. When I go seeking places to learn, I find instead people like the experts that Nathan derides, and their very certainty closes off learning, because usually they are certain but wrong – they are only able t reveal something that is not my path. The chance to delve into the theory and practice and how it relates to my experience (and my future) and what might be different or the same about me that makes my experience the way it is, doesn’t exist.
Is it selfish to want that kind of debate? Well, I suppose it is, in the same way that it is narcissistic of me to fill in all those psychology questionnaires. At the same time, I want to give to these debates, not just take, but all I have is myself and my experience. I can occasionally use my intellectual background (either in maths or philosophy or science) to try to make connections and/or create an analogy, and I always want to do that. So I don’t think I am purely taking and never giving. At the same time, yes, I acknowledge a selfish motivation – my motivation of learning how to operate as me in this world of strange, freaky aliens (that’s all of you lot out there). This may have benefits for you lot, but the motivation is selfish in that I want to make my life easier, too.
So, anyway, this post is to mourn the loss of yet more sources of internet-friendship and vibrant learning that I have enjoyed and benefited from.
And, you know, to encourage my gentle readers to talk to me in comments from time to time here – I might, that way, get to know you and make some new internet-friends?